A Desperate SXSW Finds a Lifeline Investor — But Can Music’s Biggest Conference Get Back On Its Feet?

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Austin, Texas, home of SXSW. Photo Credit: Carlos Alfonso

P-MRC, the roughly half-year-old joint venture between Penske Media and MRC, has acquired a 50 percent stake in SXSW.

The “lifeline” investment arrives on the heels of SXSW 2020’s cancellation (organizers specified that their insurance policy didn’t cover losses resulting from pandemics) as well as a virtual SXSW 2021 iteration. While the latter featured speeches and sessions from Mark Cuban, Matthew McConaughey, and other high-profile figures – not to mention livestream performances from a multitude of indie acts – passes cost a whopping $249 apiece, and it’s unclear exactly how much revenue the mid-March happening generated.

Similarly, neither SXSW nor P-MRC had publicly disclosed the financial terms of the investment at the time of this piece’s publishing. As an aside, some outlets have specified that P-MRC backed the Austin festival, whereas different publications, including The Wall Street Journal, have indicated that the support came from Penske Media itself.

Furthermore, an October of 2020 release relayed that Penske and MRC’s joint venture would be called “PMRC,” though reports from the entity’s publications (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Rolling Stone among them) show that the name has since adopted a hyphen.

In any event, the 34-year-old festival’s existing team will reportedly continue organizing the 10-day-long function, ahead of an expected 2022 return for a physical edition. In a widely circulated statement, SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson – who acknowledged last year that his event’s future was uncertain – noted the significance of the P-MRC backing.

“It’s been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included. When Jay Penske came to us with interest in becoming a partner, it was a true lifeline for us,” said Swenson.

“While SXSW’s core business will retain its focus on the March event in Austin, this strategic investment also brings the exploration of new capabilities in providing quality programming to our diverse community of highly engaged creative professionals,” he finished.

Multiple entertainment professionals and music festivals are preparing to welcome back physical audiences in 2021, but 2022’s concert schedule is quickly filling out – so much so that market oversaturation (and its impact on fans’ availability and wallets) could become a very real concern for promoters.

The Weeknd has already sold some one million tickets to his After Hours World Tour, according to Live Nation, and the 104-stop concert series is slated to kick off in January. Plus, fans last week caused Ticketmaster’s website to crash as they rushed to buy pre-sale Bad Bunny tickets.

Worth noting in conclusion is that more than a few profit-minded parties are looking to flip their passes to the latter, as a quick Twitter search of “Bad Bunny tickets” turns up a substantial number of purchase options.

One Response

  1. 420 Louie

    Why would they call it P-MRC?

    That sounds like the music censorship group that Tipper Gore ran in the 80s and 90s: the PMRC: Parents Music Resource Center.